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M*A*S*H episode
“The General Flipped at Dawn”
MASH episode-3x1-General Steele and Henry inspecting troops
Daffy General Steele (Harry Morgan) inspects the troops with Col. Blake in "The General Flipped at Dawn".
Season 3, Episode # 1
Number (#49) in series (256 episodes)
Guest star(s) Harry Morgan
Theodore Wilson
William Christopher
Jamie Farr
Brad Trumbull
Dennis Erdman
Lynette Mettey
Network: CBS-TV
Production code: B-308
Writer(s) Jim Fritzell & Everett Greenbaum
Director Larry Gelbart
Original airdate September 10, 1974
IMDb logo IMDB The General Flipped at Dawn
Episode chronology
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"Mail Call" (K424)
(Season 2 finale)

(broadcast order)
"Rainbow Bridge" (B301)
(production order)

"Rainbow Bridge" (B301)

(broadcast order)
"There Is Nothing Like a Nurse" (B309)
(production order)

Season 3 episodes
List of all M*A*S*H episodes

The General Flipped at Dawn was the season premiere episode of Season 3 of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H, also the 49th overall series episode. Written by Laurence Marks and Larry Gelbart, also directed by Gelbart, it first aired on  September 10, 1974 and was repeated on Christmas Eve that year.

SynopsisEdit

An inspection by the strict Major General Bartford Hamilton Steele puts the 4077th on edge. The final straw comes when he orders the unit to move the camp closer to the front, to be more economic and to show that a MASH unit should be mobile.

Full episode summaryEdit

The 4077th prepares for a visit from Major General Bartford Hamilton Steele (Harry Morgan). Henry gives the medical staff a briefing on the General but is interrupted when a lone wounded soldier arrives via chopper, piloted by Warrant Officer Marty Williams (Theodore Williams). Henry finishes his briefing in the O.R., telling the staff the General expects daily calisthenics at 6:00am, full uniform, and is going to bunk down at the 4077th for a week, so he wants no funny business. The 2-star General arrives the next day and immediately inspects the troops. Harry Morgan steals this scene and every other scene he performs in. In one of the funniest scenes ever broadcast on M*A*S*H, Steele has a few choice words for everyone he inspects. Klinger approaches the inspection in full drag and presents himself to the General with a snappy salute. Steele take a quick look at him and growls, “Not now, Marjorie, I’m inspecting the troops!”

Word spreads quickly the General is a little wacko. When Henry gives him a tour of the camp, the General picks up an old tongue depressor off the ground and insists it can be reused.

Hawkeye, who has yet to meet General Steele, has a date with Nurse Baker (Lynette Mettey) in the supply room. They are in mid-grope when Blake and Steele walk in, but Hawkeye passes himself off as a reporter from UPI. Steele reveals he is mailing his wife a jeep, enjoys dried prunes, and carries 8×10 glossies of himself. Blake yells at Hawkeye for not following his instructions to behave, but Hawkeye states the obvious by telling him the General is loony.

Blake and Steele next visit the Officers’ Club where the General meets Trapper and Marty Williams. Steele asks Marty how far away the front is by air (20 minutes) and how much fuel is consumed (20 gallons an hour). Steele is mortified and wants the camp moved to the front lines to cut down on waste. He wants to put the mobile back in M*A*S*H and wants to scout new locations for the camp.

Henry, Frank, and General Steele travel by jeep to scout a new location, but end up drawing sniper fire when Henry reluctantly salutes the General after taking an order. As Frank and Henry cower in fear, Steele acts as if nothing is happening and casually drives back to the 4077th through the rifle fire.

Hawkeye is sending his patient by chopper to Seoul, but Steele commandeers the chopper to observe the move. Hawkeye defies the orders, tells Marty to fly off, and calls the General nuts. (And notice that the General does not disagree!) Steele quickly arranges a trial to bring Hawkeye up on charges of insubordination, disobeying orders, and impersonating a civilian. (“Thought I forgot about you in the storage room, didn’t you?”)

The chopper pilot, Marty Williams, is called as first witness, but Steele asks the African-American Williams to do “a number” first. Perplexed, Williams doesn’t know what to do or say, so Steele gets up and stuns everyone with an impromptu version of “Mississippi Mud.” With the prosecution happily singing and dancing his way across the compound, the trial comes to an abrupt end. The legal officer overseeing the hearing quietly and without comment places his papers in his valise and zips it up. Hawkeye asks Henry if they still have to leave, and Henry responds that only the general does, to which Hawkeye adds, "In a rubber truck!"

Later, the staff reads in Stars & Stripes that Steele has been promoted to 3-star general for meritorious service in Korea and is assigned to the Pentagon, where he will oversee the entire Asian theater. Frank (despite his own expressed doubts about the General's stability) chooses to take this as proof of Steele's sanity. Blake, Pierce, and McIntyre for their part begin to sing an edited version of "Mississippi Mud" as they dance a jig out of the Swamp, with Frank joining in by polishing his boots to the rhythm. 

Research notes/Fun factsEdit

  • M*A*S*H enters its third timeslot: Tuesdays at 8:30PM
  • The parts where Steele endangers Blake's and Burns's lives at the front line, and where the doctors learn of Steele's promotion, are usually cut from syndicated showings.
  • This is a send-up of the movie Patton; ironically, Harry Morgan had a short cameo in that feature film as a US Senator who was against General George Smith Patton, Jr.
  • Tribute to Korean War allies: When Steele is inspecting the MASH personnel, look carefully at the soldier behind Radar. He is wearing a turban, and he could be a medic from the Indian Army. India's contribution to the Korean War was the 60th Parachute Field Ambulance, a mobile field hospital unit which eventually totaled some 627 medical personnel.
  • Trapper claims to Radar that Aaron Burr was the man that killed John Wilkes Booth. This was of course a joke. John Wilkes Booth was killed by Boston Corbett. Aaron Burr on the other hand, was the 3rd Vice President of the United States, who killed Alexander Hamilton in the infamous Burr-Hamilton Duel.
  • Harry Morgan had been acting so long in serious dramas like Dragnet that he was worried he might have lost his comedic touch. Outtakes from the inspection scene in "The General Flipped at Dawn" display exactly how wrong he was. Of course, he later became a series regular as Col. Sherman T. Potter, Henry Blake's successor as Commanding Officer of the 4077th.
  • The 1970 feature film version of MASH had its network broadcast premiere in the same week as this episode. CBS aired the movie Friday, September 13 from 9pm-11pm as part of its CBS Friday Night Movie (piggybacking the series premiere of Planet of the Apes).

Guest stars/Recurring castEdit